On June 20th, 1997 in Palatine, IL, Gary Wagner came home from work to find his daughter, Connie, murdered in their townhouse. Police were called immediately and soon arrived on the scene. The investigators determined that Connie had been bound with telephone cord and stabbed over 180 times. They noted that there was likely a significant struggle during the attack. Blood had been splattered all the way to the ceiling and hair was found under Connie's fingernails, suggesting she had fought against her attacker(s). As police continued their investigation, they found more blood tracked throughout the home. A trail led upstairs where blood mingled with fingerprints were found on a phone and notepad in her brother's room. Fingerprints were also lifted from the house's screen door, on a newspaper clipping found between couch cushions near where Connie's body lay, as well as on a plastic bag that was found in a bathroom sink - both of which were believed to be left by her assailant(s). A blanket with a bloody shoeprint left on it was also found nearby. Oddly, no signs of forced entry into the home were found, and no witnesses could recall seeing anyone enter or leave the home. Connie's car was also missing and was presumed to be the getaway vehicle.
Police proceeded to speak to neighbors, friends, and family trying to learn more about Connie and why this crime may have occurred. Neighbors said that they knew her as nice but a little short tempered. It was noted that she was susceptible to road rage and would often lose her temper with children or pedestrians who may have been in the street while driving through the neighborhood. Authorities learned that Connie had been dating a man, Joseph Stock, for several months and they were often seen driving around together in her car, often arguing with each other. However, Connie had been planning to move to Texas with her family in the near future and ended that relationship shortly before she was killed. The general feeling was one of shock that she was gone and that such a crime could happen right in their own back yard. One neighbor commented that Connie had been the first at his door to greet him when he moved in to the area. He said they would never fail to greet or at least give a friendly wave to each other as they passed. Schoolmates recalled her as occasionally loud, but always fun and upbeat.
Speaking with family and friends revealed a darker aspect of Connie's life and persona. She was known as a regular user of recreational drugs including marijuana and cocaine and lived a fast life, often surrounding herself with people described as “on the edge, or over it.” She purchased her drugs frequently from a local street gang that was well known and feared for its violent tendencies. Investigators were told that she would socialize regularly with the gang members and others on the fringes of society. It was also found that she was frequently in debt to her dealers, in debt enough that she would often need to pawn belongings (some of which she stole from her parents), in attempts to pay these debts down. While no one saw anyone enter or leave her home specifically, one neighbor did testify to seeing a suspicious unknown young man slowly driving up and down her street shortly before the crime occurred, which is something that stands out in a small townhouse community like this.
Police began ruling people out and asked Joe to come down to the station for an interview, knowing he was Connie's ex-boyfriend and they had recently split up. Joe willingly went with the police and cooperated completely, allowing them to photograph and document his body. He also surrendered the clothing he had worn the day of the crime and provided his whereabouts at the time. There was nothing that connected him to the crime and he was allowed to go home. With little to go on, police drew a blank and the case went quiet.
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